Robert Laplander

 Singer, Songwriter, Guitars, Resonators, Lap Steel 

“From the age of about 12 I knew I wanted to play music – country music specifically. My step-dad was a country musician who had done well and he’s the one who guided me. He was real old school, so I learned the way he learned in the 1930’s, so the connection with the real roots of country was right there from the beginning. He saw that I liked to write and was the first to suggest I try writing songs. For a long time after that I sort of abandoned all my other writing and just concentrated on songwriting. Performing just became a way for me to get my own material out there, but of course it couldn’t be just my own stuff, so the classic country is what I wrapped around it. It’s all I’ve ever played; that and rockabilly. 

   After a short time in the Marines, I got into an old time country band in southeastern Wisconsin and that was where I learned a lot of the hands-on ins and outs, do’s and don’ts of working with a full band. I’d had a little three-piece rockabilly trio in high school, and we were pretty popular, but this was the ‘real thing’ so to speak. After that I messed around in other groups a little before I started my own band, Texas ’55, in 1988. It was well thought out, with a solid basis in traditional country music. We played A LOT and quickly gained an ever-expanding reputation in the area, especially after we cut a 45 rpm record that wound up on a whole bunch of juke boxes. My songwriting and work with Texas ’55 brought me some attention personally and I made my first trip to Nashville to record on another guy’s album because of all that. Texas ’55 was a really solid musical vehicle that I was proud to head. We ended up doing two CD's worth of music with Texas '55 and had one song that was something of a minor area hit for a little while. Lisa was on both of those CD's on bass and on the first one she contributed some mandolin work as well. I was very fortunate to have been able to do some great things over the years because of Texas '55, and I got to see several of the musicians that sort of got their start in my band go on to bigger things; Lisa being the one I have always been most proud of. 

      That said, most musicians that came into the band had a tendency to stay; we didn’t have a lot of turn-over because we chose our musicians carefully; because they had a specific sound and feel, and because of that I could just let them do their thing. I never told my people what to do – I just let them do their job. The band expanded and contracted in size depending on the musicians we worked with. At one time we had seven people on stage, but the last eight or nine years we worked as a trio; a rhythm guitar, upright bass, and lead guitar. We were very good at what we did and got a big sound out of just three people. Texas ’55 lasted for 34 years, and in all that time we never abandoned our principals of performing traditional style country music. 

   Lisa coming to the band was an absolute hi-lite of the band’s existence. She brought a true feel for what it was we were doing, and for a very long time after I swore that if she ever left I wouldn't hire another bass player, ever! She really meant that much to me musically. She and I getting together has also proven to be one of those watershed moments in my own life. She and I became fast friends almost immediately but have been kindred spirits right from the start. Her focus, drive, and determination – not to mention her commitment to true country music – were, and are, as rock solid and steady as my own, if not more so. She is an amazing musician and person all around, and a fella couldn’t ask for a better partner. We seem to balance each other at all times; always have. Being as creative as I’ve always been, she has made sure that that creativity didn’t overshadow the spirit of those classic songs, and I’ve been pretty good at showing her how to take some of the archaic sounds and make them a bit more palatable to a modern audience. Her departure to Nashville was inevitable with her level of talent. Yet I somehow knew deep inside we were destined to come together again musically. I remember she had come back to Wisconsin for a visit and we got on stage together for a quick afternoon show for the first time in like 17 years. We jumped off into a song and I swear it wasn’t but 20 seconds in and we were locked into each other just like we’d last played together yesterday. It wasn’t long after that when the Bristol Echoes idea came to me. After that afternoon gig she and I had been talking about firing something back up anyway, and this was obviously the vehicle. 

     And as they say,  the rest – if you’ll pardon the pun – is history…”

Lisa Horngren 

 Singer, Songwriter, Guitars, Fiddle, Mandolin, Banjo, Autoharp

“I was raised in a music loving family, so it was only natural that I began experimenting with various instruments to try to play along with the music I loved coming from my parents’ record player. Man, I absolutely fell in love with Johnny Cash’s music when I was a kid! That deep resonance of his voice just sent me! He’s still my all-time favorite to this day. I was already playing guitar and mandolin when I bought an upright bass and learned to play just in order to join a local vintage country band called ‘The Reedy Buzzards’ after I heard their powerful harmonies. Something about their music struck something deep within me, and I knew that was where I was going. I was with them for a number of years and learned a lot about how successful bands work and how each of the pieces need to fit together to make cohesive music. They were a great base to learn from. I was also in a few other bluegrass bands then too, among them the extremely popular southeastern Wisconsin group ‘Pickin’ Up Speed.’ 

I really honed my bass slappin’ skills and got a belly full of how the business end of music worked in the classic country & rockabilly band ‘Texas ’55’ though. That’s where I first met Rob Laplander. Texas ’55 already had a solid reputation around southeastern Wisconsin by then. I remember walking into the basement of the guitar player's house for the audition and from the very first minute I fell in behind Rob’s rhythm guitar we just locked in together like nothing I’d ever felt before. After that first song was over, our eyes just locked and both our mouths were hanging open. To this day, I’ve never worked with anyone I have been more in tune with. We became great pals. He’s one of the most amazing songwriters, musicians, and music historians I think I’ve ever known. We did two CD’s together of his original material, and working in the studio with him was a hoot. Our relationship in Texas ’55 spanned 8 years before the band took a short break and it was then I got the offer from the Tennessee Three. Rob stood behind me the whole time, encouraging me when I wasn’t sure about things. I learned sooooo much from him, it's hard to put into words. We’ve stayed in close contact all along too because we are true friends as well as comrades in music. I always knew somewhere inside that we weren’t done playing together though. Somehow it was just inevitable. 

Along the way, I have also played various instruments in an eclectic mix of Bluegrass, Classic Country, and Swedish Folk bands in Wisconsin. I also had the opportunity to teach bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle and to bring bluegrass music into school orchestra programs. It was in 2005 that my life’s dream came true though when I was asked to join ‘The Tennessee Three’ (the guys who backed up Johnny Cash) as their upright bass player…” 

Lisa then followed the blacktop trail to Nashville, bidding Rob and Texas '55 and her engineering career goodbye moving her life completely into music right there in Music City, where she resides to this day. Following her multi-year stretch with the Tennessee Three guys, Lisa opened her own recording studio and went to work in the industry in a big way. She has made frequent appearances as a studio musician for others including Dixie Hall's 'The Daughters of Bluegrass box set', played at The Carter Fold, the famous Ryman Auditorium, Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, the Station Inn and the Midnight Jamboree; enjoys Tour Management; works behind the scenes on tele-prompting and camera cue-sheets in music TV production; and playing with a variety of acts: including Joe Hott & the Short Mountain Boys, Lorrie Carter Bennett, Roni Stoneman, David Church, Terry Lee Goffee, Leona Williams, Perley Curtis, Jett Williams, Charlie Louvin, Lloyd Wood, The Music City Hayride, Adam Pope's bluegrass/rockabilly hybrid band 'Monroe SUN', Barbara Fairchild, Ronnie McDowell, The Sweet Nothin’s, and a seemingly endless list of others. 

Says Rob about his pal, “I knew when she went down to Nashville she was going to go far. She’s that good. And while I was pretty dismayed by her leaving, I knew two things instinctively: First, she HAD to go. It was her destiny, her passion, her path… to stay behind would have been a travesty and a mistake. She belonged there, encased in music. Second, I was sure that we weren’t done together. For some reason I always had the feeling that there was one more project we were supposed to do. When the Bristol Echoes idea came up, I knew – just knew – this was that project. We are both on the same wave length in this genre.”